August 22, 2010

NPR Radio, while noting the trends about infant circumcision, writes a unfair and unbalanced news story.

The NPR story, written by a seemingly “ghost” author, interviews Dr. Douglas Diekema, a pro-circumcision advocate.

While NPR gives ample time to interview Dr. Diekema, NPR’s “ghost” author fails to interview anyone with a countering viewpoint regarding infant circumcision.

NPR does credit Intactivists for the drop in circumcision rate, but then allows Diekema to smear intactivists as “anti-vaccination” advocates. Diekema goes on to criticize intactivists as offering only “emotional arguments.” However he ignores the fact that many major professional medical associations have already stated circumcision offers no medical benefit. Despite being a so-called pediatric “bioethicist,” he fails to discuss the ethics and human rights dilemma of performing non-therapeutic cosmetic surgery on non-consenting infants.

Interestingly, Diekema participated as the “Bioethicist” in the infamous “Ashley” case, where he recommended the sterilization of a mentally handicapped girl without proper court order. The illegal surgery led to sanctions against his hospital.

Also, Diekema participated in a committee that was tasked with deciding whether Harborview Medical Center would allow its physicians to perform  female circumcision. His committee approved the procedure in the summer of 1996, but following a period of angry letters and Congress’ passage of a federal law banning all forms of female circumcision, the hospital overruled the committee in December of that year.

Diekema, chairman of the AAP’s Bioethics Committee at the time, has long believed that pediatricians should be able to perform a clitoral nick as an alternative to a more dangerous procedure performed in a nonmedical setting. Shortly following its release, the statement drew furious feedback from doctors, advocacy groups and others who argued it promoted a useless practice that impeded on the child’s right to autonomy. Now, 14 years later, Diekema’s had his second statement denied, as the AAP’s Board of Directors rescinded the Bioethics Committee’s statement in July 2010. Diekema’s efforts to promote circumcision has been rebuked by his peers, and actually helped to get legislation passed banning these procedures by taking the matter out of the hands of doctors. has written the Ombudsman of NPR radio requesting a fair and balanced article on this subject matter.

You can call the NPR Ombudsman at 202-513-3245 or Npr Ombudsman

Read the Full Story at NPR RADIO.

Partial Story Below:

New research about a steep drop in circumcisions made headlines this past week. According to one federal researcher, circumcision rates in U.S. hospitals slid from 56 percent in 2006 to fewer than a third of boys born last year. Doctors caution that those numbers aren’t definitive — for instance, they don’t include circumcisions not covered by insurance policies or circumcisions performed in religious settings.

But Dr. Douglas Diekema, a pediatrics bioethicist at the University of Washington, tells NPR’s Audie Cornish there’s no doubt about the overall trend. “I think all of us agree there probably is a decrease in the number of circumcisions over time, and that’s probably a result of a number of factors,” Diekema says. “About 10 years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a policy statement that was fairly neutral on whether circumcisions should be recommended for newborns or not,” says Diekema. “And that probably changed the way physicians were talking to their families.” In many states, Medicaid stopped covering the procedure as a result of that policy statement. And many insurance companies followed suit, meaning that more and more families might have decided to forgo circumcision just because of the expense.

“It’s also worth pointing out that our population is becoming increasingly Hispanic,” says Diekema, “And that’s a population that has not traditionally circumcised their babies.”

‘Intactivists’   Another possible explanation for the decrease might be the anti-circumcision advocates known as “intactivists.” They’ve lobbied forcefully against circumcision for years now, and some people compare them to anti-vaccination advocates. But Diekema criticizes their tactics. “Their arguments are largely emotional,” says Diekema. “Just the fact that they insist on referring to this as ‘genital mutilation’ tells you that they’re refusing to recognize whether there may be any medical benefit to the procedure.”